Underground Nuclear Facility Found in Iraq
Thursday, April 10, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. officials are investigating a massive underground nuclear facility that was discovered below the Al Tuwaitha complex of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission in a suburban town south of Baghdad.
While they aren't prepared to say the discovery is the smoking gun proving Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, Fox News confirmed that officials are very interested in the labyrinth of labs and warehouses unearthed by U.S. forces.
The discovery was unexpected and forces in the area are testing a variety of things to best determine the significance of the find.
Marine nuclear and intelligence experts have far found 14 buildings that have high levels of radiation, an embedded reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Thursday, noting that some of the tests have found nuclear residue too deadly for human occupation.
The Marine radiation detectors go "off the charts" a few hundred meters outside the nuclear compound, where locals say "missile water" is stored in enormous caverns, the correspondent, Carl Prine, reported. Prine is embedded with the U.S. 1st Marine Division.
"It's amazing," Chief Warrant Officer Darrin Flick, the battalion's nuclear, biological and chemical warfare specialist told the paper. "I went to the off-site storage buildings, and the rad detector went off the charts. Then I opened the steel door, and there were all these drums, many, many drums, of highly radioactive material."
This underground discovery could still test to be perfectly legitimate and offer no proof of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The CIA encouraged international inspectors in the fall of 2002 to probe Al Tuwaitha for weapons of mass destruction, and the inspectors came away empty handed.
"They went through that site multiple times, but did they go underground? I never heard anything about that," physicist David Albright, a former IAEA Action Team inspector in Iraq from 1992 to 1997, told the Tribune-Review.
"The Marines should be particularly careful because of those high readings," he told the paper. "Three hours at levels like that and people begin to vomit. That leads me to wonder, if the readings are accurate, whether radioactive material was deliberately left there to expose people to dangerous levels.
"You couldn't do scientific work in levels like that. You would die."
Capt. John Seegar, a combat engineer commander from Houston, is currently running the operation in Al Tuwaitha. "I've never seen anything like it, ever," he told the Tribune-Review. "How did the world miss all of this? Why couldn't they see what was happening here?"